Signs Of Blocked Ducts
If you have one or more of the following symptoms, you probably have a blocked duct:
- A firm area on your breast that feels like a lump. (It can be small or large. Sometimes it can even cover half of your breast!)
- A red area on your breast
- An area on your breast that feels hot
- Breastfeeding is suddenly painful
- Despite continuing breastfeeding, the symptoms above have not gone away.
Most mothers face blocked ducts at least once in their lives (Yes, it’s that common – you can find out why it happens here – 5 Most Common Causes For Blocked Ducts – And How To Prevent Them!)
So if you’re experiencing one of more of the symptoms above – don’t panic!
How To Treat Blocked Ducts
Follow the process I explain below, and you should be able to resolve this painful situation in no time.
The block often disappears right away when you follow these steps. If it doesn’t, you may need to repeat the process for a few days until the block is relieved. So here’s what to do:
1. Don’t Try To Fix This With More Pumping
Many mothers try extra pumping to relieve a blocked duct. The problem is, pumping is hard work… and it’s not an effective solution.
In fact, the best way to resolve a blocked duct is… to carry on breastfeeding!
This is because your baby is designed to suck perfectly on your breast and nipple. And they’ll do a much better job than any electric pump. There is a “but” though…
In order for breastfeeding to relieve the blocked duct, you need to make sure your baby’s latch is “spot on”.
It’s simple – a strong latch releases much more milk, and therefore will have the power to remove the blockage.
If you see a small mouth just around your nipple, you are looking at a weak latch. Your baby may be nibbling (and usually falling asleep). If this happens, start your latch again, and follow my 7-Step System For A Perfect Latch which I explained in this blog post:
How can you tell if your latch is strong? Look at your baby’s mouth while breastfeeding. If their mouth is wide open and coverers some of the dark area around your nipple – you have a great latch!
2. Breastfeed On The Side With The Lump First
Until the blockage is resolved, you’re better off to breastfeed on the side with the lump first. I know this sounds counter intuitive, so let me explain:
Your baby’s suck is extra strong right after they wake up. However, because babies have such limited energy, their “sucking power” diminishes within minutes.
In other words, your baby might not have enough energy to help clear the lump if you start with the second side first.
If you have a good latch, continue to the last step.
3. If Your Baby Isn’t Feeding Very Well
Of course, my recommendation to rely on breastfeeding rather than pumping to relieve the blockage won’t work if your baby is not feeding well.
If that’s the case, pumping the sore breast after the breastfeed can help clear out the lump. Make sure you follow my three steps for How To Use An Electric Breast Pump The Correct Way to get your blocked duct cleared soon and with as little pain possible.
4. Make Sure You’re Not Switching Sides Too Soon
When breastfeeding, you want to carry on with the same side until you have drained that breast as much as possible.
Otherwise, you’ll waste your baby’s “sucking energy” on the side that isn’t blocked. Makes sense, right? But how can you tell whether your breast is drained or not?
All you have to do is feel your breast after the breastfeed.
Not the lump, but the rest of the breast.
Lift the breast and give it a shake. A breast that is drained will move a little like jelly. If your breast feels firm, it is probably not drained. If that’s the case, offer the same side again.
5. Breast Massage
Lumps can be pretty stubborn at times. And if yours has been lingering for a few days, the next thing to add to the mix is breast massage.
You see, when you massage as I explain below, what you are doing is loosening the lump. This, in turn, helps your baby drain and reduce the size of the lump more effectively.
In other words – you and your baby are an unstoppable team!
So the goal with breast massage is movement. You want to shake your breast around and loosen the lump. The blockage may clear in one go, or it may get smaller day by day (if it gets smaller each day it is clearing!)
Massage before you feed your baby.
Also massage before you pump (if you need to.) And a quick massage in the shower once a day will help too!
Steps For Effective Lump-Loosening Breast Massage
- Massage just before you breastfeed, for approximately five minutes.
- Massage to your comfort level. Start gently and increase pressure as your pain eases. Too sore? Then ease off. (Don’t hurt yourself – breast massage doesn’t need to be painful to work!!!)
- Start by lifting your breast with one hand by cupping underneath your breast. This makes it easier for your breast to move while massaging.
- Next, use the pads of your middle three fingers on your other hand and feel around your whole breast until you hit the edges of the lump. It will be quite a bit firmer than the rest of your breast tissue. If you can’t find the edges, don’t worry, just massage over the red area or firm area on your breast.
- While still holding your breast, massage in a circular motion around and over the lump with your fingers. Push and rub until you get around your whole breast. Your breast needs to shake as you do this. (Remember – the goal is movement, and shaking will loosen the lump – as will the pressure of your fingers.)
- Continue to massage around your whole breast if you feel other lumps just do the same massage over these.
- Once finished, breastfeed your baby.
- Your baby will get more milk and the blockage will begin to clear or clear completely.
How Long Does It Normally Take For A Blocked Duct To Clear?
A lot of mothers expect the lump to clear immediately when they massage. They’ll stay up (sometimes all night) massaging their breast – without result.
Don’t do it. Give your body some time. Just make sure you are seeing these signs that show you are going in the right direction:
Signs that your breast lump is resolving:
- The red area on your breast is fading from red to pale pink and going back to normal skin colour
- The lump area is getting less painful
- The lump is getting smaller (after feeds or generally)
What If It Gets Worse?
Following this process, the lump should clear up in 1-5 days.
If it lingers beyond that, or if you’re seeing any of the following symptoms – it’s time to pay your doctor a visit.
- The redness on your breast has spread, and is now covering most of your breast.
- The pain in your breast is increasing.
- You have a headache across your forehead (usually coupled with other symptoms as everyone gets headaches!)
- You feel like you have the flu such as achy body and tiredness.
- You have a temperature that is creeping up and could be over 38.5 degrees celsius.
- You are shivery and shaky.
These symptoms can appear at anytime while you have the lump and in some cases may even appear before the lump can be felt.
If you have any of the symptoms above, I recommend you see your local doctor. If you are looking at a wait of over 24 hours before you can be treated – don’t wait. Head to your local hospital to be checked.
While not common, in some cases blocked ducts do lead to mastitis. And the sooner you catch mastitis – the faster and less painful the treatment period is.
But don’t get ahead of yourself. If you suffer these symptoms, see your doctor for a conclusive diagnosis. Always good to get straight on to this, and better safe than painful! 🙂
In almost all cases, following the five steps I described above should do the trick!